|Wednesday, November 1, 2000,
CBI names nine foreign cricketers
NEW DELHI, Oct 31 — Nine foreign cricketers, including West Indies star batsman Brian Lara and former England captain Alec Stewart, and five Indian cricketers have been named by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in its “report on cricket match-fixing and related malpractices” submitted to the government.
The players named are Brian Lara, Alec Stewart, Mark Waugh and Dean Jones (both Australian batsmen), Hansie Cronje (former South African captain), Aravinda De Silva and Arjuna Ranatunga (both former Sri Lankan captains), Martin Crowe (former New Zealand captain) and former Pakistan captain Salim Malik.
The 162-page report submitted yesterday to the Sports Minister, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, has also indicted former Indian captain Mohammed Azharuddin, Ajay Jadeja, Manoj Prabhakar, Ajay Sharma, Nayan Mongia and former team physiotherapist Ali Irani and umpire Piloo Reporter.
The report unequivocally indicts the role of former all-rounder Manoj Prabhakar and former Delhi captain Ajay Sharma as key players in the multi-crore betting and match-fixing scandal and has exposed the murky world of the gentleman’s game.
“Small-scale betting in cricket matches has been taking place in India for a long time. Betting on a major scale started only after India won the World Cup in 1983 (under the captaincy of Kapil Dev),” the report says, which based its conclusion on the statements made by over 200 cricketers, administrators, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), bookies and punters.
While a major portion of the report revolves around former all-rounder Manoj Prabhakar, who tried to portray himself as a crusader against match-fixing by playing a sleuth himself and accusing his former captain Kapil Dev of trying to bribe him to under-perform in a Test match, the report has virtually given a clean chit to the Haryana hurricane.
The report, which has been divided into six sections, has also extensively dealt with the links Manoj Prabhakar has with a prominent bookie, M.K. Gupta, and his role in introducing foreign players to the latter.
Portraying Ajay Sharma as the main man to introduce the cricketers to bookie M.K. Gupta, the report says: “Ajay Sharma introduced Mohd Azharuddin, Manoj Prabhakar and Ajay Jadeja to bookie M.K. Gupta alias M.K. alias John.”
“He (Ajay Sharma) also introduced Mohd Azharuddin to big time punter Ajay Gupta and for that he received lakhs of rupees from MK and Ajay Gupta and associates,” the report says.
Azharuddin, who has denied any links with the bookies and his involvement in betting and match-fixing, has been accused of “fixing matches/performance for a bookie M.K. Gupta and big time punters Ajay Gupta and associates, with the help of Ajay Jadeja and Nayan Mongia.”
“He (Azhar) received large sums of money from M.K. Gupta and Ajay Gupta and associates and also through Dr Ali Irani, who was well aware of the activities of Azharuddin and the reasons for the payments,” the report says.
Flamboyant batsman and former India vice-captain Ajay Jadeja, who too has expressed his innocence in the scandal, is reported to have been “close to some bookies and big time punters, namely Uttam Chand, Topi Rattan Mehta, Rajesh Kalra and Kishan Kumar (film actor).”
The mention of former England Captain Alec Stewart comes as a surprise though he has not been indicted for match-fixing but only for giving some vital information to the bookies for monetary consideration.
“In 1993 when England visited India MK requested Manoj Prabhakar to introduce him to Alec Stewart. He (MK) paid a sum of 5,000 pounds sterling to Alec Stewart, who agreed to give information about weather, wicket, team composition, etc, whenever the English team played, but Stewart refused to fix any match for him (MK),” it said.
Manoj Prabhakar was also paid some money for arranging this meeting with Alec Stewart, the report says.
The report, which points to the involvement of the mafia in match-fixing and betting, has named eight bookies. They are Mukesh Kumar Gupta, Anil Steel, Anand Saxena, Shobhan Mehta, Uttam Chand, Naveen Sachdeva alias Tinkoo, Deepak Rajani and Sanjeev Sachar alias Babloo.
“There are clear signals that the underworld mafia has started taking interest in the betting racket and can be expected to take overall control of this activity, if not checked immediately with a firm hand,” the report says.
The report also makes a reference to former Pakistan captain and Secretary of the Sharjah-based Cricketers Benevolent Fund Series, Asif Iqbal, for playing a role in passing of information to the bookies.
While Ajay Sharma introduced Manoj Prabhakar to bookie Mukesh Gupta, the former all-rounder introduced all the nine foreign players named by the CBI to the bookie, the report says.
“In 1988, he went to Aravinda De Silva and Martin Crowe and introduced them to bookie Mukesh Gupta. Prabhakar was paid a sum of Rs 40,000 while Martin Crowe was paid $ 20,000,” the report says, and adds that “however, Crowe refused to fix any matches for him (MK).”
For introducing Dean Jones to Mukesh Gupta, Prabhakar was paid Rs 2 lakh, the report says.
After Prabhakar introduced Dean Jones to Mukesh Gupta, the latter offered the Australian cricketer $ 40,000 to give him the team’s strategy, morale, team composition and about the probable result, etc, the report says.
The report has also indicted Manoj Prabhakar for passing on information relating to the Ranji Trophy quarter-final match between Delhi and Bombay in 1991 to Mukesh Gupta.
“Manoj Prabhakar gave MK information that some of the Delhi players were scheduled to play league cricket in England but the dates of which clashed with further Ranji Trophy matches and hence they had decided to lose this match.”
“The Delhi side comprised of Kirti Azad, Maninder Singh, Atul Wassan, K.P. Bhaskar, Ajay Sharma, Bantu Singh, Prabhakar and some others,” the report says, adding “MK paid some money to Manoj Prabhakar for this information but he does not know whether this money was shared by him with other players. Delhi lost this match on the basis of the first innings lead of one run.”
Prabhakar also reportedly provided information regarding matches to MK and was also instrumental in getting a tailor-made pitch prepared for a Test match on the instruction of MK for monetary consideration.
“The difficulties in gathering any concrete evidence to establish any of these facts in a court of law has been considerably accentuated by the lapse of time between the events and the investigation,” the report says and adds “if the matters had been investigated contemporarily, perhaps far more effective results could have been attained.”
In 1992, India played a series in Australia just prior to the World Cup and MK struck a deal with Prabhakar that some of the matches in that series would be fixed, the report says.
Agencies adds: The report said big time punter Rattan Mehta was “extremely close to the entire Pakistani team who have even visited his restaurant in Vasant Vihar, Delhi.
“He (Mehta) claims he is particularly close to Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Saeed Anwar. He also claims to have received opinion on matches from them and also having given ‘small gifts’ to Pakistani players on a few occasions,” the report said.
The report had at the same time cleared the names of cricketing icon Kapil Dev, ex-opener Navjot Singh Sidhu and budding all-rounder Nikhil Chopra from the controversy.
The report said other than Ravi Shastri, no other cricketer had corroborated the statement of Prabhakar.
The report also deals with the allegation that the Indian team in 1999 had, under influence from bookies, not forced a follow-on against New Zealand at Ahmedabad. Kapil, the coach of the team, was suspected to be behind the action who had opposed the view of the then captain Sachin Tendulkar to force the follow-on.
But Tendulkar’s statement to the CBI during his examination that it was not the decision of Kapil Dev alone, the whole management was part of it, came in strong defence of the world’s second highest wicket-taker.
Meanwhile, Kapil Dev remained to be indifferent about his name being cleared by the agency saying that the media was trying to portray him in black even without trying to verify the facts. He appeared sad about the fact that people did not recognise his contribution to the game during his 20 year career.
“The media should have known that I have played cricket for 20 years for the country, and have led the Indian cricket team to victory in the 1983 World Cup. But despite all that, when someone said that I had offered him money to under-perform in a particular match some years back, everyone believed him, not me. Is that fair?’’
The report said betting on cricket in India, in terms of monetary turnover and volume of transactions, “is perhaps the biggest organised racket”.
It said according to rough estimates the turnover on account of betting on any one-day international match any where in the world “runs into hundreds of crores”.
CBI said it appeared that what might have been small time wagering, which to some extent was inevitable, has now been replaced by an organised syndicate which has started interfering with the purity of the sport.
Meanwhile, the Government has decided to make the report public tomorrow to put to rest the speculative reports appearing in the media.
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